The 153-year-old iconic Napier Bridge in Chennai has witnessed many changes but the most recent one is historic in its terms. Napier Bridge was painted White and Black like a chess board for the upcoming Chess Olympiad which is happening for the first time in India.
India will be hosting the 44th Chess Olympiad from 28th July 2022 to 10th August 2022. It was supposed to take place in Moscow earlier but after the invasion by Russia of Ukraine, FIDE decided to move the event to India.
The bid for the rescheduled Chess Olympiad was a sudden one and in the words of AICF President Dr Sanjay Kapoor, Tamilnadu Government stepped up and provided them with adequate funds which helped India to secure the hosting bid.
Significance of Chess Olympiad
The 44th Chess Olympiad will be witnessing several historic events. The first one is the Olympiad Torch Relay which goes across 75 cities in India and is happening for the first time in the history of Chess.
The relay was kicked off on 17th June 2022 in a grand event at Indira Gandhi Stadium, New Delhi with Vishwanathan Anand carrying the torch and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi playing an exhibit with Grandmaster Koneru Hampi.
Another significant number is the number of participating countries. A total of 189 countries are participating for the very first time in Chess Olympiad.
India is fielding a total of 5 teams in the tournament and can very well make it more historic by achieving their best finish at the Chess Olympiad.
Growth of Chess in India
India has witnessed an immense growth of Chess players and chess lovers in the last few years.
In the last 12 years, the number of grandmasters has tripled in India. India has 74 Grandmasters now which is a huge improvement from 23 in 2010. India has a total of 33,308 rated players. As a country, India is ranked 4th overall with an average rating of 2668.
Talking to The Bridge, President of All India Chess Federation Sanjay Kapoor said, "With the growing popularity of Chess, we will be introducing a programme in school which will help kids grow their intellect and it will help chess grow also.
On the franchise-based format like IPL, PKL he said, "We are launching our Chess league. Chess will grow by leaps and bounds with the support we are getting from government and fans alike."
The COVID-19-induced lockdown was a "Blessing in Disguise" for Chess. Chessboards witnessed a spike of 400% in their sales. Youtubers and Chess Players started streaming online chess games which led to a larger audience. More and more people came on board to play chess online.
R Praggnandha shocked everyone when he defeated World Champion Magnus Carlsen twice in the space of three months.
With India fielding strong teams, A strong medal tally finish will add more value to the already historic event of the Chess Olympiad.